Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sheppards Pie

School Lunch. For most people it's only one step above airplane food, maybe a half step. And now that it's 2008 and airplane food doesn't really exist anymore, school lunch stands alone as the last stalwart of notoriously bad tasting food.

I for one will argue that school lunch doesn't have to be as bad as its reputation. The food at my grade school was actually good. Granted, at that time in my life my mom was feeding us brown rice, lots of vegetables and my little brother still thought that when people talked about candy they were talking about raisins. But even the kids whose families ordered in Domino's every Friday liked most of the food served in our cafeteria.

My grade school's cafeteria was run by one very nice lady named Marge and 4 other ladies who were more than a little scary. Marge and her scary helpers made a different meal every day and student had no options of what to eat. The standout meals, the ones that drew cheers from eight year olds, were macaroni and cheese with bacon, chili, and sloppy joes. Also worth mentioning was chipped beef, which I am convinced was just slices of hard salami cooked in milk and eaten on a biscuit, but somehow made to be good tasting.

In Marge's cafeteria, every meal included at least one hot vegetable and most days carrots, celery sticks and salad olives were offered as an appetizer. There was also a small desert. Marge and the scary ladies earned whatever salary they were making.

For most people school lunch is a concept that is receding farther and farther into the dusty corners of their memory. This is not the case for substitute teachers. I sometimes eat in the cafeteria of whatever school I'm at as often as twice a week.

At Gateway my options are usually a chicken patty sandwich, fries and a half a pint of milk. Lunch is supposed to include a vegetable and fruit but it's rare to actually receive them. Sometimes you can scrounge up a fruit cup, some watery broccoli or a red delicious apple. On the unusual occasion that the menu does not end at chicken sandwich, you can purchase pizza or spaghetti or a generic McRib sandwich. I thing it's fair to say that the options in the Gateway cafeteria are limited, but the prices are low and on a good day the food is only one step below fast food.

McKinley Gifted Junior High is one of my favorite schools to work in. The students are bright and friendly, everything is clean and organized and the cafeteria is, in my opinion, the best in the whole district. I'm at McKinley today and even though I brought a salami sandwich, I decided see what was on the menu in cafeteria.

The woman who runs McKinley's cafeteria is a younger prettier Marge. She always gives me heaping helpings of whatever I'm having and I am sure to heap on the compliments. Today's special was something I'd never had before, but something I've always wanted to try. It was my dad's favorite lunch when he was in school. Sheppard's pie. Its a mashed potato casserole with ground beef and gravy. It was delicious. Or at least as good as fast food.

You don't substitute teach for the money. The real payment is experience.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I loved this. You can't go wrong writing about food and women who cook it!

2:10 PM  
Blogger clara said...

eghads - your grade school was quite a far cry from the indiscernible stuff on a cardboard tray covered in plastic they would serve at my school.

luckily, my parents were a bit progressive - they sent me to school with lunch in a brown bag - but as i peered over the lunch table at my classmates' steaming red and white checkered tray, i assumed everything on it tasted like everything else. i would imagine the thousands of little machines that pumped out the perfectly round hamburger patties.

watching my classmates eat was the most painful. each one had a look i would never forget - it went something like 'whatever, it is food, it doesn't taste like much, but at least i am not hungry.' they never seemed to complain, at least not to me.

really, i think public schools should triple lunch hour and have the kids make their own food. cooking is a dying art, and it is not even an art - it is a necessity.

sorry for the ramble - my brain is moving fast today.

12:02 AM  

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